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Sense of Place

Roxana Robinson takes her cue from the bigger picture



Roxanna Robinson enjoying the fruits of her labor - overlooking her garden which seemlessly melds into the forest.

Photos by Kindra Clineff

If Roxana Robinson’s landscape just sort of slips into its surroundings, that’s totally intentional. If there are no obvious boundaries between cultivated areas and the adjacent West Cornwall woods, then Robinson figures she’s done her setting justice. Although the garden that the novelist forged around her mother’s family summer house merges left and right with the local vernacular, make no mistake about it, a whole lot of head time was spent feathering Treetop into its outskirts. Blurring lines is what this garden is all about.

Basically, Roxana Robinson was just practicing an extension of her trade when she began preparation to put a garden into the space the great great granddaughter of Henry Ward Beecher and great great great niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe took under her wing ten years ago. Novelists are notoriously observant and true to form, Robinson—author of  Sparta, Cost, Sweetwater, and This is my Daughter, as well as the definitive biography Georgia O’Keefe: A Life—was dutifully spending life with eyes wide open, monitoring what she was seeing and hearing all around when she began translating that awareness into a cultivated area. In truth, she had to accomplish a whole lot of earth-moving to create planting spaces around the unbelievably quaint Arts & Crafts home where she’s summered since childhood. Making it even quainter (but much more level and plant-friendly) required some drainage tricks and considerable expertise. Indeed, she called in the talents of friend and famed landscape designer Patrick Chassé for advice on translating her concepts into practical terms, leveling the playing field, and steering water away from the house. The result is a ledge and ravine configuration with planting pockets and streambanks custom made for inserting goodies of the photosynthesizing kind. Somehow she manages to extend the Arts & Crafts mood outward with just a few meticulously placed focal points and accents. But nothing calls attention to itself, except perhaps in late summer when the fervent plants in Margueritaville explode into flower in unison.

Robinson insists that natural was a no brainer, but not everyone would share that awareness. “I couldn’t plant an Austin rose here,” she says of the mindset that made Treetop feel nearly wild, “it would have to be a rugosa rose instead.” Similarly, boxwood hedges were not her speed—not because she has anything against foliage plants but because airy, unsculptured shapes are what inhabit the woodlands that frame her space. Ferns forge the foundation of her composition, “They catch the light, they move, they perform all season long”. Indeed, ferns of all stripes furnished inspiration for the quieter aspect of the garden around the house. She calls that area Sissinghurst, and has kept its palette purposefully muted. We’re talking geraniums, white bleeding hearts, blue and white baptisia, columbine, Jacob’s ladder, primroses, and similar understudies. Not all the plants are native, but none are jarringly different from the genius of the forest all around. 

Farther from the cottage, as you approach the foot bridge to her writing studio, a whole different mood comes into play. That’s what she calls “Margueritaville” where you get the jolt of electricity as monarda, crocosmia, asclepias, verbenas, evening primrose, tropical salvias, tithonia, and similar strident bloomers do their thing. She jokes about its comparative pulsating throb, but truth is, all that color is cushioned in plenty of green. And those flowers lure in a whole army of pollinators who might not otherwise be present if foliage was the only protagonist.

There’s action, there’s drama, but also the slow syncopation of a stage well set. Meanwhile, Roxana Robinson is the brewmaster and narrator behind the scenes. Then she sits back and lets the action unfold. And isn’t that just like a good novelist? Flowers seed in from the surroundings and thicken the plot, roots scramble around and get into trouble, something dies, but something is born. It’s the horticultural version of a page turner. This story is to be continued.


Eco-Friendly Homes & Farm

The Washington Environmental Council is hosting a Farm & House tour for their scholarship fund on Saturday, Sep 29, from 1-5 pm. This is a self-guided tour of eco-friendly and architecturally significant houses in Washington as well as a tour of the Back 40 Farm. Two of the homes are eco-friendly: a 1966  Sears Roebuck kit  house and an Arts and Crafts style home on eleven acres. The iconic Cogswell Tavern saltbox, built circa 1756, hosted General Washington at least once. The Back 40 Farm will be open for tours. All proceeds from the tour go directly into the scholarship fund. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at farmandhouse.eventbrite.com  or at 860-868-0845.

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September 2018

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View map »


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Telephone: 860-868-9003
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View map »


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Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

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Telephone: 203-263-4868
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Cost: Free

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Cost: Free

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View map »


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Telephone: 212 255 6247
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View map »


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More information

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Where:
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

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Cost: donations graciously accepted

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View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

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Cost: $100

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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Where:
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View map »


Website »

More information

Opening Reception: August 11, 4-6pm. This event is free and open to the public. MAQUETTE: The Art of the Model is an exhibition of maquettes or models by many of the sculptors currently...

Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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Woodruff Lane
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 860-567-3871
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Fall Fresh

Fall Fashions from Litchfield county boutiques

bauhaus/ our house

Simplicity Reigns at Dumais Weekend Haven

Ten Minutes With a Teen Race-Car Driver

Travis Hydar feels at home on the track

With Friends Like These

Joseph Cicio’S wide circle of fascinating people
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